Ox Eatery at East Hotel – Lightning Review

by The Editor

There’s a lot to like about East Hotel and restaurant Ox. It’s feels similar to the Realm Precinct in Barton in that it strikes a balance between sophisticated and safe, and presents neat little ideas that capture the eye, as opposed to a strident attempt for individualism. In that sense East Hotel probably nails the Canberra market.  We popped along to see what was on offer.

Entering through the restaurant door (as opposed to the East Hotel’s foyer which is connected) the punter is presented with the dining room to the left and a small bar area to the right. The decor in Ox has a lovely natural feel. Wire stools, long wooden counters and a small indoor herb garden contribute considerably to the effect. On our first visit we were surprised at the low-level of light in the public area. The service area was lit up like a beacon which made it difficult to perceive the finer details of the decor in the gloom of the table area. Still, the bar was busy enough and those imbibing early on a Saturday night were clearly enjoying themselves.

The restaurant has some lovely features. While leather booths line the large front windows affording all diners a view onto the street a rather unusual arrangement divides diners seated at tables for two.  A long wooden divider rises almost a metre off the ground, curving like a slithering snake makes its way through the centre of the dining room. Inside each curve (alternating sides along the way) are the tables. The effect achieved is of a sense of intimacy despite diners probably being in closer actual proximity than you may realise. It’s rather effective, although perhaps a little difficult to describe.  Similarly, the kitchen runs the length of the dining area and features a couple of rotisseries – one which was slow cooking a pig on the night we visited.

So, to the food.  The emphasis is on sharing, as is the custom these days.  The style is dangerously close to ‘dude food’  with big, western European offerings such as pork crackling and cassoulet.  In a similar vein, the banquets on offer are more about large plates to be passed around as opposed to individual servings.  It’s a nice idea outside of an Asian restaurant and one to become increasingly common around town.

Despite some of the opening horror stories we’d heard – a Negroni made with pomegranate juice because the bar had run out of Campari, for one – it’s all very promising.  So much so we decided to spend the evening at Ox Eatery and see if the experience lived up to the potential, but more about that next week.

So, has anyone else tried out the Ox?